How Volocopter’s ‘flying taxi’ stations will use an elaborate system of conveyor belts and lifts to handle 10,000 passengers each day by 2028.
The future of travel has been unveiled by Volocopter – and it seems remarkably efficient. The German flying car start-up has released a video that shows its vision of an urban ‘air taxi’ system that could handle 10,000 passengers each day. The system features elaborate ‘Volo-port’ stations perched on top of skyscrapers that are equipped with conveyor belts, swappable battery packs and lifts to speed up transfer of passengers. This means aircraft are always fully charged and ready to go, according to the company, which claims these futuristic landing pads could be commercially viable for normal people. The company hopes to have a prototype station in place next year but predicts that it will take around ten years before a city-wide system is in place.
The Stuttgart-based start-up’s ambitious plan is to create circular launchpads on the top floor of skyscrapers in cities from where the electric aircraft would take off and land, writes the Verge. They would have a conveyor belt that would transport the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft into an indoor hanger.
From there, they would moved to a garage where maintenance work can be carried out. The system would be so efficient the company claims 1,000 passengers could board and disembark every hour.’It’s about mass transportation of people and how it can be done in a safe way and with what infrastructure,’ Alexander Zosel, Volocopter’s co-founder and chief innovation officer, told the Verge. Mr Zosel said the Volocopter aircraft would need to land every 30 seconds. Having such high volume is important if the company is able to handle lots of passengers and therefore be affordable.
Initially, the taxis would only fly over a short distance with flight times of around 30 minutes and a maximum range of 17 miles (27km). However, some have doubts about how feasible this technology will be – most batteries are still far off offering the power-to-weight ratio required to take off. The company has demonstrated its capabilities in Germany and Dubai where it believed the company is most likely to launch its first service. More recently it announced it partnership with Intel in CES at Las Vegas.
The company stunned attendees during Intel’s keynote by flying the drone right onto the stage, in what a spokesperson admitted was a ‘ballsy’ move. In a presentation about Volocopter’s craft, an exhibitor said it is the ‘world’s first autonomous air taxi.’The craft completed the first unmanned test flight in Dubai this past autumn. ‘Potentially in years to come, you would be able to take your phone out and pull up a transportation application, and similar to what you do with a taxi today, summon this to your location, hop in, tell it where you’re going. ‘And it would autonomously fly you to that location, no pilot required. It’s a safe, reliable form of transportation’, the exhibitor said. The Volocopter craft ‘is essentially a scaled-up super drone,’ he noted. It is fully electric, allowing for zero emission travel. And, it’s quiet enough to be operated in an urban environment.
Volocopter relies on a system of ‘redundancies’ to ensure its safety, meaning there are many propellers, batteries, and motors to compensate in case one goes out. With Intel’s flight control technology and a ‘myriad of sensors,’ the craft is ‘constantly analysing environmental data to ensure those redundancies,’ a Volocopter exhibitor explained.
There are 18 independent motors and propellers, but ‘if that seems like way too many, what it allows for is, you can lose a propeller or several of them and still maintain your flight.’There are nine batteries, ensuring the same type of back-up. According to the firm, rides in the flying taxis would likely be comparable to a trip in an Uber Black.